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BURLINGAME - Condoleezza Rice said by weakening its military muscle abroad the U.S. leaves a vacuum that will be filled by the likes of nationalists in China and terrorists in Iraq.

Harnessing Ronald Reagan's "peace through strength," the former U.S. Secretary of State said America must lead to lessen the world influence of Bashar al-Assad in Syria and Vladimir Putin in Russia.

"I know that people are tired. I know that after more than 10 years of war and terrorism and engagement abroad it sometimes doesn't look like there's a light at the end of the tunnel," Rice told a lunchtime gathering of the California Republican Party on Saturday. "We can think 'Oh, let someone else do it.' But nobody else will."

"In sustaining our role abroad we will be safer and more secure here, too," she added.

On Sunday, Crimean residents are set to weigh in on a referendum that could lead to their joining Russia from Ukraine, or becoming independent.

Rice, a professor at Stanford University in Palo Alto, told the audience that California, too, is in need of a rebuilding of sorts. She called for the state to embrace the principles of individual responsibility and liberty, private sector-led growth and a private space that is respected by, and in which people "respect the choices of each other."

Said Rice: "California has always had a certain sheen, a kind of exceptionalism of its own."

PHOTO: Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice speaks to the delegation at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida, on Aug. 29, 2012. (Lionel Hahn/Abaca Press/ MCT)



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